Research Critique

A Critique of Quantitative Research

This paper seeks to critique a quantitative study by Savage et al (2013) on the topic of “A New Model of Social Class? Findings from the BBC's Great British Class Survey Experiment” published in the Sage journals. The critique will be based on the approaches of Niewaidomy Foundation Research (2008) as a guide to the stepwise critique of the research paper. This implies that the paper will use Nieswaidomy’s research critique approaches to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the study by Savage et al (2013).


Purpose and Problem of the Study


Savage et al (2013) begin by describing the growing interest of researchers on social class stratification and how the growing inequality in the world has made the understanding of social class important. The authors go ahead to explain that the main problem they seek to solve is how cultural and social processes can be applied in generating class division. Therefore, Savage et al’s (2013) main aim were to explore how a combination of various measures of economic, cultural and social capital can be used to understand the contemporary class division on the UK.


Niewaidomy Foundation Research (2008) argues that a study’s problem statement is considered to be of a good standard if it focuses on a particular population, is stated in interrogatively, can be empirically tested, and includes reasonable variables. Besides, Niewaidomy Foundation Research (2008) argues that evaluating an important problem statement entails checking whether it is stated in the form of a question and whether it has been narrowed down to the main target population with clearly defined variables. Otherwise, a problem identification made in the form of a declarative sentence does not give a clear description of the problem (Niewaidomy Foundation Research, 2008).


An effective analysis of the study problem or research question is to determine whether it has a clearly stated purpose. Savage et al (2013) provide an adequate description of their purpose for conducting the study in identifying how measures of cultural, social and economic capital can be combined to identify the difference between various classes in the contemporary UK society. However, it was difficult to identify the actual research problems because it was stated in a declarative sentence form rather than in question form. This fails the test of Niewaidomy Foundation Research (2008) who strongly insists that for a research problem to be clearly stated, it must be in a question form. Nonetheless, it is commendable that Savage et al (2013) included the target population in their problem statement, which are the contemporary UK population. The researchers also included the variables (i.e. social, cultural and economic capital) in their problem statement.

Literature review


The literature review in the study by Savage et al (2013) provides deep detail of the historical accounts of class stratification. The review refers to previous research and conceptualization of class by explaining the data and variables in detail. Notably, this evidence focuses on the chronological evolution of a multi-dimensional way of understanding social class classification. For instance, Savage et al (2013) explain the different phases on analysis of class stratification from the 1980s and this gives clarity and offers rich background knowledge directly related to the UK social class stratification.


The study draws from previous research to extensively explore the history of social class stratification, giving details of how the stratification process has evolved through several phases to become what is known today. Savage et al (2013) adequately compare and measures the social, cultural and economic variables from different studies and this enhances the relevance of the sources.

Research Question and Hypothesis

Savage et al (2013) propose a hypothesis right after the introduction section, where they argue that using a combination of social, cultural and economic capitals will yield five more social class stratifications on top of the two already existing middle and working class.


The procedure and criteria for developing a study hypothesis are well defined by (Niewaidomy Foundation Research, 2008). According to Niewaidomy Foundation Research (2008), study hypothesis must be written in a declarative form, must contain the population and variables under discussion, reflect the problem statement and finally, must be testable.


Unfortunately, Savage et al (2013) presented their hypothesis in a manner that it is difficult to empirically evaluate. The hypothesis statement is written in present tense and tends to be more non-directional because Savage et al (2013) attempts to predict that the social, economic and cultural capital can be combined to develop a multidimensional social class stratification of the UK population without making any attempts to predict the type of relationship that these variables may have. This implies that the researchers might have not fully tested the problem due to the existence of an incomplete hypothesis.

Research Design

The study by Savage et al (2013) uses a survey experiment method to justify the claim that social, cultural and economic capitals can be combined to develop a new understanding of UK’s social class stratification. The study used two sets of data from two surveys; one is a survey of 161,400 participants, and the other being a survey of 1026 participants. The survey data were combined using the latent class analysis approach to achieve the study objective.


Niewaidomy Foundation Research (2008) argue that research design does not have to be in line with any specific data collection technique but should resonate with the overall plan of data collection. Furthermore, the research design should easily be identified as the appropriate one for achieving the set research objective. Nonetheless, the main critique of the research design is to establish whether it is capable of testing the research hypothesis (Niewaidomy Foundation Research, 2008). Thus, if the study takes an experimental research design, the researchers must control for any variable that may affect the study validity.


Savage et al (2013) use experimental research because as they state, they relied on two sets of the survey, one consisting of an existing database while the other consisting of primary data gathered from 1026 participants. The survey experimental design was appropriate for the research problem because it seeks to understand how social economic and cultural capital can be combined to develop multidimensional social class stratification. This implied the need to acquire details from the participants through survey methods of data collection such as filled questionnaires and interviews.

Sample and Sampling Methods


The sampling method of any research report is highlighted in the research methodology section. In Savage et al (2013), the researchers have used two sets of samples, one involving 1024 participants while the other involving 161,400 participants. Unfortunately, the authors fail to give specific information about the two sets of samples such as the age, occupation and areas of residents.


Niewaidomy Foundation Research (2008) describes that a sample is a representative subset of the entire population and the method used in selecting the sample determines, to a significant extent, how representative it is to the entire population. Thus, there are numerous types of sampling methods including probability and non-probability sampling. The larger the sample, the greater its ability to represent the entire population while the smaller the sample, the less generalizability the study will have (Niewaidomy Foundation Research, 2008).


The researchers clearly outlined their samples in the study methodology section. Specifically, they mentioned that while their target population was the UK population, the accessible population was the few that could take part in the online survey. However, Savage et al (2013) do not give any reason why they selected the 1024 participants in the online survey or 161,400 from the Great British Class Survey (GBCS). Furthermore, Savage et al (2013) do not mention important demographic information about the sample including gender, a phenomenon that affects the validity and reliability of the study. Thus, Savage et al (2013) do not give enough details of the sample population.

Methods of data collection


Savage et al (2013) collected data through an online survey by asking participants to fill an online questionnaire. Besides, the data from GBCS were also collected through an online survey in what GBCS claim to be one of the most responded to the survey of its kind in the UK. The questionnaire was designed to gather data on the participants’ cultural, social and economic capital, which means that it collected specific data such as the income and wealth held by the participants, their educational credentials, as well as their social networks or contacts. Nonetheless, Savage et al (2013) did not give any suggestions for better data collection tools and instruments in future research.


Niewaidomy Foundation Research (2008) describe questionnaires as self-reporting data collection tools that help in measuring the respondents’ feelings, ideas and other subjective responses related to the phenomenon being investigated. Through questionnaires, researchers can use various self-report data collection techniques such as Likert scales that give participants a chance to give a variety of answers (Niewaidomy Foundation Research, 2008).


Whereas Savage et al (2013) mention the data collection technique for measuring the social, economic and cultural capital of participants, they fail to indicate the instructions or nature of questions asked in the questionnaires. Therefore, while the data collection method was appropriate, Savage et al (2013) failed to give appropriate details of the questions in the questionnaires.

Data analysis


Savage et al (2013) provide very detailed information on the statistics and methods used to analyse the quantity of each variable (i.e. economic, social and cultural capital). For social capital, the authors used the Cambridge Social Interaction and Stratification scale (CAMSIS) to measure the mean status score. Next, the cultural capital score was measured through a multiple correspondent analysis while the economic capital was measured through household savings, house price and household income. The authors then used the latent class analysis to find the most appropriate way to group people considering that parameters within statistical models are different across various unobserved groups thereby allowing for the formation of various categories of latent variables.


Niewaidomy Foundation Research (2008) insists that researchers should clearly explain their statistical analysis so that any reader can determine whether appropriate methods of measurement were used. This implies that the degree of significance and the calculated values should be presented in a manner that aligns with the research hypothesis, with results clearly outlined through both tables and text.

Savage et al (2013) present the results of their study in both table and text forms after providing adequate details on the statistics used in deriving the value of each variable. They provide adequate information which makes it easier to determine whether they conducted an appropriate test or not. They also provide calculated values of statistics and figures for each category of variables.

Study findings and conclusion


Upon using latent class analysis on the gathered data, Savage et al (2013) developed seven classes including elite classes, the middle class, new affluent as well as technical experts. The study also found a lower level of the social class including the traditional working class, the precariat, and emergent service workers. Ultimately, the authors concluded that the British social class stratification consists of a fragmented middle class characterised by a polarised society.

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Niewaidomy Foundation Research (2008) argues that the findings of any study consist of the results obtained from the collected data. The author further states that the findings should be presented objectively and concisely while addressing the research hypothesis separately and making conclusions based on the study framework. Furthermore, as Niewaidomy Foundation Research (2008) asserts, the findings should be compared with the findings of other studies, study limitations should be identified, and the clinical significance should be highlighted.


While the study does not give conclusive results on this research topic, they succeed in a clear and concise delivery of the findings. Their results are objectively stipulated by providing the different social classes derived after combining the social, economic and cultural capital from the survey data. Furthermore, the authors compared the data with the findings of other studies before finally discussing the implication of the study results to practice.


This paper has conducted a critique of Savage et al (2013) using the Niewaidomy Foundation Research (2008) critique guidelines. The paper has critiqued the main sections of the study to identify their strengths and weaknesses, in a process whereby several areas for improvement have been identified. In general terms, the study by Savage et al (2013) is a weak source of evidence on the measurement and development of the UK’s social class stratification. The study generally fails to identify means to ensure its validity and therefore this paper recommends a thoroughly written research report to address these weaknesses.


Nieswiadomy, R.M. (2008). Foundations of Nursing Research. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Savage et al (2013) A New Model of Social Class? Findings from the BBC's Great British Class Survey Experiment, Sociology, Vol. 47, No. 2 (April 2013), pp. 219-250.

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